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August 14, 2020

Hailing a Hundredth Anniversary of Yangon University

Maha Saddhamma Jotika Dhaja, Sithu Dr. Khin Maung Nyunt

In terms of history, a hundred years or a century is a period long enough to change a life whether human, or institution. Myanmar word for university is Tekkatho (တက္ကသိုလ်) which is a Myanmar derivative of original word “Taxila”. The oldest university of Lord Buddha’s time, it remnants are now in Pakistan. Taxila is composed of two words “taka” and xila (တက္က + sila သီလ) Taka means to reason and sila သီလ means to observe and practice. So Taxila means an Institute of higher learning where “reasoning” and observing and practicing are imparted: Jatakas [Buddha’s live stories] have mentions of or reference to Taxila. So also Myanmar history, literature and visual and Performing Arts have Taxila [တက္ကသိုလ်] classical duet dance of Prince and his fiance lover Princess in Myanmar classical drama is the return of the two lovers from Taxila University to their home land. They had a long journey while taking a rest in the forest, the two lovers create a romantic scenes. The princess being tried sings that she could not continue the journey anymore. Her fiance lover the Prince consoles her “we are nearing my homeland. I shall carry on my back if you could not walk anymore. When we reach my home kingdom, my royal father King would welcome you and you would become my consort. As I am Crown Prince, I shall succeed to the throne”. All that moment two ministers appeared on the scene, sent by the King to bring his son and fiance princess to Nay Pyi Taw [King’s Palace City]
Though Yangon University was typical university of British University Oxford, Cambridge, London etc. Residential Institutions where only monks, aristocrats and upper middle class were trained it changed to become the institute of producing patriots to liberate their mother country from British Colonial Rule.
A long period of a hundred years of Yangon University is an exciting story deserving not only celebrations such as Dimond Jubilee etc. but also writing an authentic history. First, the writer wishes to draw the attention of all to the conditions of Yangon University today. The name Rangoon Arts and Science University (RASU) is now outdated. There is no arts and Science University in the world. Universities are higher learning centres where all academic professional and technical subjects are taught and where academic researchers are carried out.
Next we should correct names, spellings and Burmanised words so mistakenly used on the Campus. First the straight road from main gate leading to Convocation Hall is the Chancellor Road. Now we are using wrong Burmese translated name Adipadi Lan (အဓိပတိလမ်း) Even Myanmar word lan (လမ်း) is spelt in English “lan” not correct original English word Road. Similarly Convocation Hall is spelt in English “Bwe Hnin Thabin Saung” in English, Why not its original English word Convocation Hall. Very recently two amusing but serious mistakes were made at the Yangon Institute of Economics. Two ways with 2 gates of the campus of that Institute are marked with English words “IN” and “OUT”. In Myanmar words (အဝင်) and (အထွက်). These two Myanmar words are spelt in English “Awin” and “Ahtwet”. Amusing and horrible. It reminds me of a song sung by a famous vocalist Ma Kyi Aung. In it Myanmar game “hide and seek” is always accompanies by the rhyme “တူတူရေ၊ ဝါး” which is directly translated into English “Hamer, hamer, water, Bamboo”.
The writer had many experiences of such amusing mistakes during his sea voyage to London. One outstanding was his cabin mate to understanding Myanmar Licking salt လျက်ဆား၊ လေမျိုးရှစ်ဆယ်လျက်ဆား into direct English translation “Eighty kinds of wind”. It took more than 2 hours to explain the English customs officer that it was not powdered drug but only Myanmar traditional herbal medicine 80 kinds of wind was direct translation of Myanmar word. There are five central hostels for men students Inwa Hostel, Sagaing Hostel, Pinya Hostel, Pegu Hostel and Thawtar Hostel. In Burmese hostels are called အဆောင်. Now instead of using English word “hostel” Myanmar word (အဆောင်) is used spelt in English “Ah Saung”.
There were two men hostels and one women hostel of Judson College – namely Wellington Hall or Hostel and North Hall or Hostel. English Lords Wellington and North were prominent historical persons. So their names honoured at these two men hostels. But North hall was translated into Myanmar Ottara Saung (ဥတ္တရဆောင်) pali word for North Direction as to the Wellington Hall it was named Shwebo Saung name of the capital city of Late Konbaung dynasty. Benton Hall for women students was Myanmar as Thiri Saung (သီရိဆောင်). Today spelling tif;om; is absolutely wrong. It was originally spelt (အင်းလျား) Inlyar because the shape of the lake is oblong. Inya means “Itching Lake”. If you bathe in it your body becomes very itchy.
Similarly Yangon University Students Union in Myanmar is ရန်ကုန်တက္ကသိုလ်ကျောင်းသားများ သမဂ္ဂ R.U.S.U (Rangon University Students’ Union). But today it is rendered into direct English transliteration “Yangon Tetkatho Kyaung Tha Mya Thamagga”. Today we call Tetkatho Hsey Yone (တက္ကသိုလ်ဆေးရုံ) was called Sanatorium. Today Tetkatho Surpo Htana was just University Post Office. Similarly Swimming pool, sports stadium are now English transliterated Yey Ku Kan (Swimming Pool), Ar Kazar Yone (Stadium). Customs means revenue collected on commodities imparted or exported custom means custom and traditions of people. After renovation and face lift the customs House on the Strand Road downtown Yangon forget to add “S” to the word “custom”. We should correct our mistakes in translation and transliteration as we celebrate Diamond Jublee of Yangon University.
Yangon University is noted as the best in South East Asia and equal to Oxford Cambridge and London. Due to the mistaken opinion of policy maker of Education Department “English language and literature and English education are the main causes of slavish mortality on the contrary they are the eye-openers and remote and immediate causes of Myanmar people from political lethargy leading us to partiotism.
Bogyoke Aung San, Thakin Nu Prime Minister, UN Secretary-General U Thant ECAFE U Nyunt and many Myanmar in international services and organizations today – UN, UNESCO, UNICEF, FAO, WHO, WB, ADB etc. are proofs of fruits of English language. We should not let our true patriotism corrupt to become Zenophobia. The writer stops here for look of space. He would present more articles on Yangon University of his salad days.

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